3 things you need to know about the ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise 2019
// Report by Benita Teo
// Photos by Chua Soon Lye & Kenneth Lin and courtesy of RSN
The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is taking part in the inaugural ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise (AUMX) from 2 to 6 Sep. It will be part of 1,000 personnel and eight ships from the 10 ASEAN nations and United States (US) participating in a series of maritime exercises in the Gulf of Thailand. Here's what you need to know:
1) It is the first maritime exercise between the ASEAN navies and the United States Navy (USN).
This year's AUMX is co-organised by the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) and United States Navy (USN). The exercise is themed Enhancing shared awareness and interoperability in the maritime domain.
"Most of the ASEAN countries, including Singapore, are maritime nations, and we depend on the seas and maritime trade for our survival and prosperity. In this aspect, the USN is a partner in safeguarding maritime security in our region," said Colonel (COL) Lim Yu Chuan, Commander of First Flotilla and Commanding Officer of the RSN's 185 Squadron.
"This inaugural AUMX provides an important opportunity for us to build trust and confidence, and more importantly, allows us to strengthen our ability to work with one another in responding to maritime security threats at sea."
The AUMX Co-Exercise Director, Vice-Admiral Chareonpol Koomrasi, Chief of Staff of the Royal Thai Fleet, said: "(We want) to foster increased cooperation in maintaining maritime security, focusing on preventing and pre-empting possible wrongdoing at sea by exchanging information, promoting awareness (of the) working environment and adhering to international laws."
His counterpart, Rear-Admiral Kenneth R. Whitesell, reiterated the need for cooperation. The US Pacific Fleet Deputy Commander said: "The coordination with our partner countries and countries participating with us is critical. As we operate together, we develop trust with each other (and) understand each other's capabilities."
"This exercise allows us to train together, so that if we do join up together, then we have an understanding of how we are going to operate together. That's why this exercise is so critical. It's not just the US, it is ASEAN as a collective whole operating together," he added.
The conduct of the AUMX was agreed on by the 12th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) in 2018, under Singapore's Chairmanship of the ADMM.
2) The RSN's Information Fusion Centre Real-time Information-sharing System (IRIS) is playing a key role in the coordination of the AUMX.
Launched in May, IRIS is a Web-based information-sharing system comprising the fused Recognised Maritime Picture that collates information from multiple sources on ships plying the region, as well as a chat function that allows users to communicate via text messages and to share image files.
The Exercise Shore Headquarters at the Changi Command and Control Centre (C2C) will make use of IRIS in leading the Maritime Domain Awareness Cell (MDAC).
The participating ships will use IRIS in their sea exercises, such as tracking and identifying vessels of interest (VOIs).
IRIS plays an important role in building the maritime situation picture at sea, said Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Christopher Chang, Assistant Chief of Staff of the MDAC.
He explained: "IRIS is deployed as the primary information-sharing and coordination platform for the exercise. Because it is Web-based, even ships at sea can access it and achieve common situation awareness with the operation centres ashore."
The speed with which IRIS could share information and data impressed Lieutenant Jofel Besa.
The Maritime Domain Liaison Officer for the Philippine Navy is stationed at the Changi C2C, where she acts as the liaison between the Philippine Navy’s shore headquarters and its ship participating in the exercise.
"The information-sharing is faster and more reliable for the participating countries," she said. "The (sharing of) information is centralised, so whenever we need information, we can get it quickly."
3) The eight participating ships are conducting a series of exercises at sea to test their interoperability.
The RSN's Formidable-class frigate, RSS Tenacious, is taking part in the sea phase of the AUMX, as part of a task group together with the Myanmar Navy. Together, they will carry out drills such as manoeuvring exercises and put their communications to the test with flag signals.
"(These exercises) are important in building interoperability in responding to maritime security threats at sea," said COL Lim.
Using IRIS, the eight ships will also work together to track vessels of interests as well as conduct boarding and search exercises on suspicious vessels.